Entrepreneurship springs from optimism. You believe in the vitality of the marketplace and your own potential. You understand that your livelihood relies on your energy and vision. You have a faith in yourself and your tribe and the world as a whole. But what if you’re just not feeling it right now?
We get stuck in the doldrums sometimes. Maybe it's due to illness or the needs of the family or this endless winter (this week’s Sovereign Standard offers balm for the snowed-in February soul).
Regardless of the source, these low periods are real and sometimes you can't just put on a happy face and push through, business as usual.
You Can Keep Sailing Your Professional Ship - Despite Private Tidal Waves
Maybe you’re one of those unflappable people whose personal relationships or interior monologues never gets in the way of her work. Maybe. But I doubt you’d click on a blog post with this title if you were. For the purpose of full transparency, you and I probably won’t be soul mates if you’re the Unsinkable Molly Brown type.
Time for more disclosure: I have big feelings and big ideas and sometimes they cause huge waves that threaten overturn my little professional skiff.
You too? Wonderful. Keep reading - there’s some ideas for how to survive these internal tempests and an extended boating metaphor in it for you!
Decide What You’ll Throw Overboard BEFORE the Storm Hits
You set out on the entrepreneurial journey with dual goals: adventure and prosperity. You were prepared to do the creative work as well as the grunt work. Your vision would become a service or product that filled a need and was worthy of your clients’ investment.
Though you may not have thought about it in any detailed way, you planned on showing up fully as you. After all, the reason you’re taking the risk of self-employment is for the ultimate fringe benefit: independence and the freedom to plot your own course.
The thing about being you - about being human: stuff happens. Storms hit. And the best laid professional plans are practically worthless when you’re in survival mode.
Well, those professional plans aren’t totally worthless. Before crises hit you can set priorities, develop systems, and hire back up so that clients won’t feel seasick when you're caught in a riptide.
And you can decide what’s on the bottom of your list.
This post is to help you decide what to cut loose before the ship starts going down. My suggestion? Your online presence.
Yes, the woman whose business is based on writing, content creation, and feeding the hungry internet beast in a graceful, sustainable way just told you to put your online presence last.
Note: that doesn’t mean that you put your writing last. Goodness knows the only way to survive a personal crisis is often a nice glass of red and a long session with your journal, but I digress…
Why Your All-Important Online Presence Isn’t All That Important Sometimes
You build an online presence in order to increase your visibility. If you’re not being seen you’re not building brand recognition or accruing those vital “know, like, and trust” points.
Does that make the online world sound way too much like appearing at a high school hangout on Friday nights? I meant for you to squirm a little with that one.
As important as visibility is, it’s also a bit trivial. Was one missed party social suicide when you were a sophomore? Is one week without Twitter going to damn you to obscurity?
Of course not. If you completely vanish from, the scene the conversation will eventually move on without you. But if you stick around your professional online haunts even when you feel like an emotionally crippled zombie, you risk your sanity - and potentially your reputation.
But What About Transparency and Authenticity?
Transparency and authenticity are two of the buzziest buzz words out there when people talk about how to “do” social media. They’re also some of the most flexibly defined words in the modern lexicon.
Let’s consult the bona fide word experts at Merriam Webster:
Transparency: the quality or state of being transparent: able to be seen through; easy to notice or understand; honest and open; not secretive
Authenticity: the quality or state of being authentic: to be real or genuine : not copied or false
Remember, friend, in this particular scenario, you’re a mess. You want to crawl into your bunk with a big thick book (this one features a shipwreck in keeping with our theme) or take up permanent residence on a desert island.
When you're wracked with doubt or swept up in a personal hurricane, transparency is not necessarily your ally. You don’t want or need to share all the details of this process just because you’re dedicated to being “real” online.
Transparency is Optional. Authenticity is Mandatory.
You’ve got a lot of discretion when it comes to what you reveal, but as a creative entrepreneur whose work is fueled by your passions, authenticity isn’t something that you want to start skimping on.
Your child is sick. You’re dealing with a mental health issue. Your mother-in-law just moved in. These situations are casting some long shadows over your optimism right now. It may feel good to step into the light of the always glowing digital world and talk about growth and hope, but you may also feel like an underpaid actress desperately pretending the script isn’t flat and the working conditions aren’t horrible.
Sometimes the most authentic, connected thing you can do is gracefully step away from the screen.
You may want to post a little note to the effect of "gone fishin'" or you may simply trust that you'll be back soon enough and your dedicated online community will greet you with open arms when the time is right.
Alternatives to a Complete Digital Hiatus: 3 Ways to Keep Up Online Appearances
Sometimes you need to just pull away. Being online when you feel vulnerable can make you feel too exposed - even if you’re not talking about anything personal. But if you can get your head around doing some simple online chores there are ways to keep up appearances:
- Post from your archives: You barely remember what you wrote last fall, so there’s a good chance that your older material will feel fresh to your readers. Plan ahead and make this easy on yourself: create a spreadsheet and record every post’s title, category, keywords, and meta description so you don’t just start picking old blog posts at random.
- Create media with the books that are getting you through: If a novel or a gripping work of non-fiction is your solace during this tough time, pull some quotes and use WordSwag to create a neat little graphic that’s easy to Instagram and share across social media.
- Build a list of ten or more trusted allies' sites and repost their content: Sharing others’ content may be a natural part of your day when you’re stopping by Facebook regularly, but think ahead for the times when you’re away from your usual digital hang outs. Create a list in Feedly or Twitter and repost content from your savvy friends and wise colleagues.
Despite the fact that I’ve barely been outside in months, I’m still keeping my ship afloat. Check out this week’s Sovereign Standard and subscribe to see you’re not the only one suffering during this long winter and to pick up some inspiration for finding warmth in the endless white veld.